The Jacksonville Jaguars released veteran running back Leonard Fournette on Monday, reigniting speculation that the Pittsburgh Steelers could be interested in the former No. 4 overall NFL Draft selection.
Fournette rushed for 2,631 yards in his three seasons with the Jaguars, including a 1,152-yard season in 15 games in 2019. But the LSU product also grew dissatisfied with his situation in Jacksonville, requesting a trade over the offseason.
That trade, in which the Steelers were frequently suggested a partner, never materialized, and Fournette was waived on Monday.
Which team(s) should pursue Leonard Fournette? Simms and I both said Steelers. Anyone else?
— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) August 31, 2020
Five possible landing spots for Leonard Fournette, who was released today by the Jags: https://t.co/B4L7Tmyz5O
— OutKick (@Outkick) August 31, 2020
Though the Steelers were a repeatedly rumored destination for Fournette in a trade, the circumstances are much different now.
The Steelers used one of their 2020 NFL Draft selections on running back Anthony McFarland, Jr. from Maryland, and he impressed through the first two weeks of his first training camp.
The Steelers have also already gone through their cycle of restructuring their contracts to get salary cap compliant for the 2020 season. Fournette is owed $4.2 million in salary for 2020 that would have to be absorbed if the Steelers or another team claimed him on waivers. The Steelers do not have that amount of cap space available, meaning they would have to begin the process of renegotiating a contract in order to make space very quickly.
There also isn’t a player in the Steelers running backs room that they could release in order to realize any cap savings if they landed Fournette, as their entire running backs room consists of players on their rookie contracts or for near the veteran minimum.
The combination of factors makes it seem unlikely that Fournette will end up with the Steelers, especially considering the fact that they likely could have acquired him for very little earlier this offseason and chose not to. But until he lands elsewhere, it seems likely that the speculation will continue and it’s a situation worth monitoring.